Tucking in your fabric seam allowance is the final stage of making your Lampshade Making Kit, which gives your shade a wonderful and professional crisp finish. Over the years, we’ve collected lots of useful information from our army of Professional Lampshade Makers, which includes tried and tested techniques, extraordinary tools and valuable tricks to get a perfect lampshade edging. In today’s post, we’re going to share them all!
Our obvious go-to choice of tool for tucking in your fabric seam allowance – the section that’s revealed once you pull away the pre-scored kiss cut– is the Rolled Edge Tool tool, that's supplied in every Lampshade Making Kit.
Made from flexible plastic, it's been designed to allow you to ‘tuck’ the fabric under the rings of the lampshade, to hide any raw edges and give a good-as-shop-bought clean, crisp finish to the top and bottom edges of your lampshade.
Through different stages of tucking the fabric under, the serrated edge is useful for starting the process. By positioning this where the fabric meets the ring nearest the PVC you can gently partially push the fabric between the ring and the PVC.
The pointed corner is great for coaxing the fabric under, while the smooth sides are useful for running around the inside of the ring to capture any loose threads.
After scouring through posts, on the Dannells Lampshade Makers Facebook Group, (an amazing resource for all things lampshade making), we’ve discovered plenty of useful, but surprising alternatives to help you tuck:
Loyalty card/ Credit card – useful due to its rounded corners for tucking in most fabrics, especially thicker fabrics. Useful advice from Ruth Kirby is to be careful the colour doesn't transfer to the PVC or fabric.
Artists palette knife – available in a range of shapes and sizes, our Lampshade Makers seem to prefer those with a smaller tip and a rounded end and come highly recommended by Keith of Shore and Sea.
Butter knives – whether it's an old school butter knife or a more modern version with a sculpted rounded handles, the soft curves of a butter knife is a popular choice as it has less chance of damaging your fabric
Bookbinders bone turner or plastic point turner – with a narrow and sharp point, these are great for fabrics that are thicker or have a bit of body and bounce
Guitar plectrums – A mini version of our rolled edge tool, guitar plectrums are great for getting an extra handle of trickier fabrics, allowing for short sharp tucks - Marie from @lythamlampshades high recommends them!
Cake icing spatula – with an angled handle for icing spreading perfection this tool sits flat against your PVC while you tuck
Wooden coffee stirring sticks and lollipop sticks – again with a rounded end, both are cheap and versatile tools for finishing your shade. Catherine Driscoll uses these fat lollipop sticks and sands one end down to a tapered edge
Tucking in Methods
Easy gains for tucking in your fabric start way before the process itself and here are a few things you can do to make your life easier.
Making sure your fabric is ironed well, helps to reduce any unwanted wrinkles along the inside edges of your shade.
Once you’ve adhered your fabric to the PVC panel in your Lampshade Making Kit, carefully remove the kiss cuts gently in 3-5cm sections. This not only stops unnecessary fraying but also stops the weft and warp of the fabric from distorting which can encourage buckling. Taking care at this stage will make it easier to get a smooth tuck under the rings.
When applying your rings to the panel, make sure the rings sit as close to the edges of the panel as possible and don’t press them down too hard, as this will make it hard for the rings to ‘lift’ for the fabric to be tucked underneath.
For more inspiration, here's a few methods that our professional lampshade makers use:
When pulling the fabric over the top rings, pull it upwards first, then over, then tuck under the rings. ‘I find if I use a very thin fabric, it can pucker around the rings. Having the vertical pull up first avoids this’.
Emma Rockman of Rock Paper Scissors Shades
I start tucking under two or three tucks, then move along 2 or 3 inches, working back to where I started, then repeat. This should stop the fabric gathering.
Marg Hinds of Margaret's Soft Furnishings
I don't tuck as I go. After the shade has been formed by rolling onto the rings I start by pulling the fabric that's going to be tucked, over the ring so that the raw edge is facing into the inside of the shade. I check all around for any bumps as the fabric can be gently pulled away from the sticky tape and adjusted. Then I start smoothing the fabric around the ring so that the excess is sitting flat against the panel on the inside of the shade with the raw edge still facing into the inside of the shade.
Then I start to tuck by running my nails along the inside of the ring encouraging the fabric to start to disappear down between the ring and the panel. I go round a couple of times like this and then use a tool (a butter knife) to push the fabric around so the raw edge finally disappears between ring and panel. I then finish off with a Rolled Edge tool because it's flexible and you can get all the last little bits tucked in.
But as I say, I don't start to tuck in until the fabric is lying nicely along the entire top edge of the ring with the raw edge facing inwards all the way around the shade. I do each little stage all the way around the ring before moving onto the next stage of my tucking process.
Amanda Wheattie of @wyreandgimble
Tips for Fabrics, Wallpaper and Paper
When making lampshades there are many variables to consider, not least the type of fabric you are using. For a drum or coolie lampshade you will find less weighty cotton fabrics are easier to work with when tucking in, than say a heavy wool, velvet or Harris Tweed. Although it is possible to use the latter, these may be trickier to tuck under the ring because of the thickness of the fabric, which is bulkier.
Shona Brown of @speycrafts says;
I always leave a tiny bit more than the kisscut edge to allow for decent tucking in, especially if a thicker fabric!
Finer fabrics such as Tarna Lawn or similar lightweight fabrics have almost the opposite problem and need more gentle handling. Be careful not to push too hard when tucking the fabric as it can rip. In this case, we’d recommend using the smooth side of the Rolled Edge tool, or a more rounded end tool from the list above.
Fabrics that naturally fray, such as hessian, which is having an interiors moment now, will reduce, and Diane Dwyer, of the Southern Antiques Centre in Sydney, offers this advice:
I made a lampshade out of a vintage french grain sack, a very open hessian weave. It tucked just fine and the only difference was that counter-intuitively, I allowed for a wider tuck in allowance - 2cm instead of my normal 1.5cm.
Finally, we often get questions about tucking in wallpaper and maps, which are both obviously prone to tearing. Sue Gallegher of Oh So Suzi, uses maps regularly when making her beautiful shades.
I use maps and I tuck but I cut about 3mm off the usual amount. It helps having less to tuck. I use the rolled edge tool and a lolly stick!
Take a look at our Lampshade Kit Hack post that takes you step-by-step on how to make a lampshade from wallpaper and maps. When using wallpaper in our tutorial we give this advice;
Gently push the paper under the ring using the loyalty card. Use small strokes pushing along the length of the frame to avoid damaging the wallpaper.
Removing and Adding fabric Tabs
In different situations, when tucking in your lampshade seam allowance you may need more or less fabric, to make this process easier.
For all of our Lampshade Making Kits, we advised you to cut away a small square of the fabric where this doubles at the seam overlap. This reduces the bulk of the double fabric making it easier to tuck in.
A professional lampshade maker's trick is to add a tab of fabric just above a below the seam. You can see this method used in our Lampshade Kit Hack – Folded fabric seam edge tutorial, and this can easily be added to a lampshade without a folded seam, particularly if your using a heavier weight fabric to give you some additional purchase when tucking in.
A simple tip when tucking in your tab is to hold the folded end in place with your thumb, tuck this under first then work backwards, tucking under the remainder, so that fabric does not sag.
Even with all of our tips and advice, there are some fabrics that can be a challenge when finishing your lampshade, so using the knowledge and advice of the brilliant lampshade makers we’ve chosen a couple of issues that you might come across.
Usually most common when you’re using a synthetic fabric or very lightweight fabric, puckering or creasing can occur along the top and bottom edges of the fabric. This can be caused by pulling when tucking in or simply the way the fabric adheres to the rings.
Jane Warren of The Lampshade Loft uses this clever trick;
To avoid the creasing around the top ring, I cut a long narrow strip of Domette or curtain interlining and place this on top of the sticky rings, after you have rolled the shade, but before tucking in. It’s narrow enough to sit on top of the rings. Then pull your fabric over this, result: super rounded edges and no puckering. Ensure the fabric to be pulled over and tucked in is a little longer than usual. Works a treat!
Illuminated Lumps and Bumps
How a lampshade looks when the light is on or off can be very different and it is advisable to check your shade over a bulb to see your final finish. A common problem, with thicker fabrics, can be lumps and bumps along the inside of the ring lines, where the fabric might not have fully tucked under.
There are a few remedies for this. Firstly if you're using a thick fabric and can see this is happening as you tuck, reduce your seam allowance by a few millimetres, which reduces bulk. Ivory Luz recommended using a smooth synthetic cord to get an even finish by glueing this ‘just right under the tuck so that when the shade is lit, your tucks look even’.
As mentioned above some fabrics, such as hessian and linen can fray excessively leaving very little to tuck in. A preventative way of stopping this is to apply Fray Stop to the edges of the fabric before cutting out as demonstrated in the video below.
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